There are so many things to be stressing about on a Saturday morning: ever-nearing deadlines for assessed essays, upcoming meetings with my thesis advisor (still without a topic), and looming qualification exams. And, for all that, I’ve spent all morning with my mind fixed on five minutes I will spend on the Isis this afternoon, racing with Worcester rowing against the evil empire of Wadham College.
I always hit a moment of panic about two minutes before a race. Whether I’m sitting in a boat or standing on a starting land, I’d usually give anything to escape. I know that the only way I can win is if I sentence myself to more misery, pain, and exhaustion than my competitors, and I know they realize this too. I almost want to scream for them to take it easy on us, but I don’t, so I am left wondering why I do this to myself. I had every chance during weeks of training to back out, but now it’s too late. My torment is both unavoidable and completely self-inflicted.
And then, at some point, the gun goes off, and my world compresses. At first, I can hear the cox screaming at us to pull, and I can both see the boat chasing us from behind and the boat we are chasing, a few lengths in front. The simplicity is blissful: for a few minutes, all the complex problems of my life are caused by those bastards in front of us and the wankers behind. And then, at a certain point, my world narrows further, down to just my boat, and all I am doing is trying not to let down the guy in front of me and the guy behind me. And, about a minute in, when my body goes anaerobic and my mind goes numb, the competition is only between me and myself, and I am in nirvana.
If we lose, there’s practically nothing that can cheer me up; but if we win, I’m pretty sure I can go on and conquer the world.
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Jukebox: Complete Control – Are You Ready?